Baltic ferry disaster: new dive finds no evidence for alternative theories | Finland

A new research expedition to the wreck of a ferry that sank in the Baltic Sea 27 years ago has not provided new evidence that contradicts the official accident investigation report, the Estonian and Swedish accident commissions said on Tuesday.

In one of Europe’s most deadly maritime disasters in peacetime, MS Estonia, on its way from the Estonian capital, Tallinn, to Stockholm in Sweden, sank in heavy seas on 28 September 1994, killing 852 people, most of them Swedes and Estonians.

Only 137 people on board survived. The ship’s fate has triggered several conspiracy theories, including that it collided with a submarine, or that it carried sensitive military cargo that played a role in the shipwreck.

The official joint 1997 study by Estonia, Finland and Sweden concluded that the ferry sank when its front door locks failed in a storm. It separated the bow door from the vessel, opened the ramp to the car deck and caused extensive flooding of the decks, lowering the vessel in just 30 minutes from the first emergency call.

Others, however, questioned this as there was increasing evidence that there was a large hole in the ferry.

Presenting the preliminary results of a dive with underwater robots in July, Rene Arikas, head of the Estonian safety investigation agency, said the dive showed that the wreck had a hole, about 22 meters long and four meters high. The wreck rested on a slope on the seabed, and its original position had changed over the years due to changes in the seabed, making the hole and other damage more visible, he said.

Despite this, he stressed, the researchers have no evidence to prove that the official report of the shipwreck is incorrect.

New underwater surveys are scheduled for March-April, with visibility considered to be the best, Arikas said.

Jonas Backstrand, Deputy Director General of the Swedish Accident Investigation Board, said that the researchers were surprised to find that the seabed was significantly rocky, and this could very well have been the cause of the hole. “We do not know how this hurts [to the vessel] happened, ”said Backstrand, but it was likely to happen when the ferry fell on the rocky seabed. More research was needed, he said.

A separate, privately funded expedition commissioned by relatives of the victims of MS Estonia made a dive in September. The first results are expected to be announced early next year.

The wreck lies on the seabed about 80 meters (265 ft) below the surface in international waters off a Finnish island and is considered a cemetery, giving the area protection under the law.

This headline has been updated to more accurately reflect the story

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